13th IndieLisboa - International Independent Film Festival, Lisbon

Portugal, April 20 - May 1 2016

The jury

Michael Pattison (UK), Alexandra Zawia (Austria), Francisco Ferreira (Portugal)

Awarded films

The 13th edition of IndieLisboa, Lisbon’s premier film festival, took place between 20 April and 1 May 2016, in venues old and new across the Portuguese capital. Like many cultural events of its kind, IndieLisboa has had to brave an actively hostile financial climate in recent years, and its familiar team — headed by co-directors Nuno Sena, Miguel Valverde and Carlos Ramos — should be commended for finding ways in which to continue this popular festival without compromising its programme size, selection quality or curatorial identity.

As its name suggests, IndieLisboa’s longstanding focus has been independent cinema, a term that now has myriad uses (and abuses). In blunter terms, its ‘festival of festivals’ ethos promotes the broadest gamut of films that might for numerous reasons find critical coverage or commercial distribution difficult to acquire: independent features, but also short films and experimental films. At a time when too many other festivals fetishise world-premieres at the expense of quality control and a paying public that has no practical access to overseas festivals, IndieLisboa achieves an increasingly anomalous balance on the festival circuit: it’s serious but never snobby, a capital-city festival that manages to keep to an astonishingly affordable ticket price of €4.

Adding to last year’s double-whammy ‘Independent Hero’ retrospectives (Whit Stillman and Mia Hansen-Løve, whose latest works opened and closed this year’s festival respectively), the latest edition included sidebar tributes to Vincent Macaigne and Paul Verhoeven — the latter, a full retrospective, featuring many works screened on celluloid at the city’s wonderfully singular Cinemateca Portuguesa Museo do Cinema.

If such tributes are the most reliably exciting parts of IndieLisboa’s year-to-year curation, the festival also deserves praise for its continued promotion of new cinema — which, given the increase in artistic voices and the technological-infrastructural means by which these can be heard, is both a natural prospect and an overwhelming task. In some ways, a festival is only as good as its returning names: in remaining sensitive to the younger artists it has helped to introduce across the last decade (Ben Rivers, Gabriel Abrantes, Vincent Macaigne), IndieLisboa ensures its own currency among an entire generation of auteurs.

This year’s international juries awarded the best feature prize to Liu Shumin’s Jia and the best short prize to Kiro Russo’s Nueva Vida. In the national section, the correlative awardees were Sérgio Tréfaut’s Treblinka and The Hunchback, the first collaboration between Ben Rivers and Gabriel Abrantes. Among a plethora of other prizes was, of course, our own: this year’s FIPRESCI Jury awarded its Critics Prize to Ted Fendt’s Short Stay, an amusingly low-key and appropriately indie comedy that we agreed upon unanimously from a selection of first features in the Official and National Competitions and the Silvestre section. (Michael Pattison)

IndieLisboa – International Independent Film Festival, Lisbon: